Sunday, September 18, 2005

True Confession Time

Okay, it's time to admit it. I have a guilty obsession. I LOVE the television show, "House." The cranky, brilliant and acerbic Dr. Greg House just tickles the bejabbers out of me. I schedule my week to watch every episode--no videotaping. I've been thinking about it, trying to figure out what it is about this show that appeals so much to me.

Long ago, I spent four years working as a social worker in the Emergency Room of a large public teaching hospital. I was often frustrated by the self-involved, myopic doctors I encountered. No matter how often we were told that patients were people--not diseases--I frequently saw busy physicians blow off their patients while treating the disease.

An emergency room is a crazy place. You are surrounded by doctors, nurses, techs, paramedics, cops, social workers, wailing family and tired children. With a unending stream of new people in pain, I realize it was hard for the doctors to stop long enough to listen to the patient in front of them. They would often walk out-- always wearing a pleasant smile--while the patient was still talking.

Part of what appeals to me about House is his honesty. He's doing exactly the same thing, but he isn't hiding it behind an insincere smile. He's direct about being nasty.

A few years ago, I shattered my left leg in four places in an accident. It was a very ugly situation. The board-certified surgeon who was recommended to me was brusque, rude and obnoxious. I hated him. However, he did one hell of a job putting me back together again. I have metal plates and bolts and virtually no scars. Nor do I have any lingering, unpleasant after-effects. My leg is just fine.

When my thumb was crushed in an accident a few months back and required surgery (yes, I'm a disaster walking), I was told that I might lose the thumb and was referred to a hand surgeon. Against medical advice, I made the decision to request the same surgeon who had operated twice on my leg. My instincts told me he wouldn't give up until he had no other choice. If I had to be unconscious during surgery, I wanted someone at the helm who cared about my thumb as much as I did.

Nothing had changed. He was still brusque, rude and obnoxious. However, while the rest of the medical staff (including the anesthesiologist) were preparing me to lose the thumb, he saved it. The surgery went twice as long as it should, but I still have two opposable thumbs, thereby insuring my place at the top of the animal kingdom.

Guess I know why I like House so much after all.

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